Ever since I finished On Writing this quote from the start of the second half has always stuck with me:
If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.
I’m a slow reader, but I usually get through seventy or eighty books a year, mostly fiction. I don’t read in order to study the craft; I read because I like to read. It’s what I do at night, kicked back in my blue chair. Similarly, I don’t read fiction to study the art of fiction, but simply because I like stories.Yet there is a learning process going on. Every book you pick up has its own lesson or lessons, and quite often the bad books have more to teach than the good ones.
After reading that I’ve been on a reading tear, 29 books this year, and I’ve slowly started making connections between ideas and seeing themes that connect things. It’s a bit like observing how two sides of a string get tangled into a knot and knowing immediately how to untie it.
Then this morning I got the strongest connection yet, this time from Think Like a Freak. The authors tell the story about how Takeru Kobayashi learned to dominate the competitive eating circuit by asking a new question. Instead of asking how do I eat more hot dogs, he asked, how do I make hot dogs easier to eat?
This fit a current project idea about how to read more books, it created a new schema of thinking about rewriting questions, and it made connections between thinking in these terms in many avenues of life.
Reading this year has been like a runaway train, chugging downhill, aided by the wind. The more I read the more I want to read.